Improving College & Career Readiness

This report focuses on the college and career readiness levels of the ACT®-tested US high school graduating class of 2012. The report represents 52 percent of all 2012 graduates in the United States.

Findings in the report suggest that for this cohort of tested students, the condition of college and career readiness has slightly improved over the past several years, specifically in the subject areas of math and science.

While encouraging, far too many students are graduating from high school ill-prepared for the academic rigors of college and career. The results again indicate that the US education system must do better at helping our young people to compete with their peers in other nations for meaningful jobs and careers in the 21st century global economy.

As a trusted, not-for-profit leader in research on college and career readiness, ACT is committed to continuing our efforts to provide data and information to help solve the daunting problems faced by our nation. In future years, ACT research and data will be designed to provide insights not only on academic achievement but on student behavior and goals, which when combined will help individuals better prepare for success throughout their lives, from kindergarten through career. These new efforts will broaden and extend our core mission: Helping people achieve education and career success.

The data in this report provide continued insights that will help inform and guide our collective efforts to improve college and career readiness for the next generation of young people now making their way through the US education system.

ACT research gives some insight into how to improve college and career readiness. Three key suggestions are provided below.

  • Early Student Monitoring and Intervention. ACT research continues to show the importance of early monitoring of student achievement and appropriate interventions. ACT research also supports the use of integrated, longitudinal, data-driven systems to inform and encourage coherence in school, district, and state efforts to prepare all high school graduates for college and career. Schools must provide rigorous courses aligned with college and career readiness standards. Students must be prepared for and have the opportunity to take these core courses. Educators must provide systematic guidance and feedback early and often to students about their progress.
  • Use of Student Growth Models in Early Monitoring. As states and districts implement college and career readiness standards, metrics aligned to those standards are needed to gauge individual and school progress toward this goal. Using these metrics, growth modeling has strong potential to help stakeholders measure progress—for individual students and for school systems. Growth model results can serve a variety of purposes.
  • A Comprehensive Framework of Best Practices. Key practices for increasing readiness can be implemented as part of a comprehensive framework of best practices. Empirically developed and validated, the Core Practice™ Framework outlines the evidence-based educator practices at each level of a school system—district, school, and classroom—that help all students master high standards. The Framework focuses on five themes: 1) Curriculum and Academic Goals, 2) Staff Selection, Leadership, and Capacity Building, 3) Instructional Tools: Programs and Strategies, 4) Monitoring Performance and Progress, and 5) Intervention and Adjustment. Included in the Framework are critical actions—steps on how to implement the 15 core practices.